Who wouldn’t recognize deer even from a distance? It’s impossible to miss out on such majestic creatures with their characteristic spotted bodies and white tails.
Though it’s not hard to recognize deer, what they eat is a mystery to most of us.
Even if we generally know that they’re herbivores, we need to delve into more profound research about the specifics.
But, while we’re on the topic, do deer also munch on fruits like tomatoes? Well, if this topic piqued your interest, then you’re in for the treat.
Will deer eat tomato plants?
Whether the tomato’s ripe or not, deer will eat them. Though it’s unknown what makes tomatoes very attractive to deer, they can’t resist sinking their teeth onto it. However, the tomato fruit isn’t the only part that deer nibble on if they get the chance. They also munch on the leaves, stems, and roots, leaving nothing but a big mess on your garden plot.
Tell-tale signs that deer ate your tomato plants
Though it’s entirely natural for deer to eat the tasty tomatoes in your yard, the damage they cause can leave you devastated.
At times, you may even feel like exacting your revenge on them to appease your rioting feelings. But are you sure deer are the culprit behind the damage?
Well, if you aren’t a hundred percent sure yet, take a closer look at the damage created first.
For one, the damage caused by the gentle deer happens at the top part of the fruit. Serrations on the edges are also present, ultimately distinguishing it from raccoon-damaged plants.
You’ll also notice trampled-on plants and bitten-off leaves and stalks lying on the ground. Raccoons rarely cause such kind of damage, ultimately singling out deer from the list.
But catching deer red-handed’s tough, especially that these shy animals love to forage during the late evening and dawn.
How do deer digest the tomato and other plants they eat?
If you’re still wondering how deer manage to eat tomatoes, think about how their digestive system’s wired.
As mentioned earlier, deer are herbivores. Their diet mainly consists of plant matter they find within their immediate environment.
However, they’re more than just plain herbivores. These skittish animals belong to a particular group of mammals called ruminants.
Ruminants refer to hoofed animals that chew on cud (food returned to the mouth from their stomach). Like cattle, deer have multi-chambered stomachs that make this unique digestive process possible.
Once they fully digest the tomato, the microbiota living in their guts break down the food for nutrient absorption.
But, mind you, even a subtle change in a deer’s diet can wreak havoc in their gut microbiome.
Hence, it’ll take several weeks for the deer’s microorganisms to adjust to their new food source, lessening the rate of nutrient absorption.
What other plants do deer eat?
If you aren’t familiar with the deer diet yet, you’ll be surprised to know they aren’t picky animals.
Known as leisurely foragers, deer will eat whatever food they spot along the way – so long as they’re plants.
Regardless if they see leaves, twigs, or even certain types of fungi, deer will readily eat them.
A deer’s diet depends heavily on the season, food abundance in their habitat, and scavenging areas.
So, if it’s wintertime, deer won’t have the luxury of foraging their favorites as most of the flora’s withered.
Hence, they’ll content themselves on eating shoots, buds, and even the bark of trees and shrubs.
But, if you want to have a list of their all-time favorite foodies, then take a look at some of them here:
- Hickory nuts
- Fruits (blueberries, blackberries, apples, persimmons, etc.)
- Beechnut acorns
- Ornamental trees
How to keep deer from eating your tomato plants
While you understand entirely the deer’s need to feed itself, you can’t always give in to their whims. Though it’s tempting to retaliate physically, you’ll only find yourselves behind bars for it.
So, it’d be best if you had foolproof measures to keep deer away from your beloved tomato plants. But, how can you outsmart them?
Make sure to read the following methods listed below and see what works best for your situation.
One of the most straightforward strategies is installing barriers around them.
But, when hunger pangs cloud a deer’s mind, these witty animals jump over fences as high as six feet. Thus, this method’s not the usual route backyard gardeners take.
However, if you’re determined to try this tactic, you can create individual chicken wire cages for your tomato plants. Make sure to place a top cover on the pens as deer love munching from the top.
If the first strategy isn’t working, you can try putting up an electric fence. Though some may think this method’s brutal, a little zap’s enough to warn the deer not to enter your property.
Just don’t forget to keep the electricity running at night as this is the time deer are most active in foraging for food.
But, if you want to create a physical reminder for the deer, then maybe the installation of an eight-foot fence’s already okay.
In this way, deer can no longer jump over them and wreak havoc on your tomato garden.
Confuse the deer with scents
Like dogs, deer have a hypersensitive sense of smell. Since they rely on scents so much, why don’t you use this to your advantage?
Simply put, confuse the deer with the scents they’re picking up. And, the simplest item you can use for this tactic is soap.
No matter what soap you use, its strong smell makes the deer think twice about entering your garden.
Place the soap inside nylon stockings and hang them near your beloved plants.
Also, deer don’t like the smell of humans. Place human hair inside the nylon stockings for a more powerful talisman for your tomatoes.
If all else fails, then go for more putrid scents instead. Old T-shirts, shoes, and even smelly socks can become an effective deterrent for deer to steer clear from your garden.
Use homemade/commercial sprays
If you want to get physical with the deer, then squirting sprays can help in your endeavor.
Like the previous strategy, sprays bank on the keen sense of smell that deer have.
But, instead of using the scent to protect your plants, you use it as a living reminder instead.
If you want convenience, buy commercially-made deer repellents in gardening and hardware stores.
Just keep an eye on the spray’s ingredients as some of them are toxic to deers.
If you prefer taking the natural route, then you can concoct your unique mix. Here are some of the specialty mixtures you can experiment on:
- Vinegar/ammonia spray
- Hot pepper spray
- Garlic powder spray
- Predator urine spray
Whatever ingredient you use, make sure to dilute it with 16 parts water for maximum effect. Pour the blend into a squirt bottle, and you’re ready for the battle.
Use plants to your advantage
If you want a subtler and humane way of deterring deer, then you can use plants to your advantage.
You can try planting a special plot for them. Fill the plot with the plants they find irresistible, giving them the liberty to graze on them.
You can also plant tomatoes on that particular garden plot. Just make sure to combine this method with another tactic for optimal results.
However, you can also use plants to keep deer away from your garden for good. Plant them along the border of your plot, and you’ll never have to worry about deer-damaged crops again.
You can choose what deer-repellent flora you’d like to plant from the list below:
- Purple fountain grass
- Japanese boxwood
So, if you’re still skeptical about the whole deer-eats-tomato idea, then test the hypothesis out yourself.
But, if you want to protect your beloved tomato plants at all costs, read and understand every detail mentioned above.